Britain is often portrayed as the land of tea, red buses, Downton Abbey and the Queen. While some of the stereotypes about Britain are just that, we do have many traditions and quirks that you might find confusing at first. To help you get started before you arrive, here are five unique British traditions you need to know:
- Thanks, cheers, nice one. British people are known for their politeness and courtesy towards other people. Some of our favourite words are ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ – you’ll probably hear these numerous times a day! You may also notice when you arrive in the UK that we like to queue…a lot. Our tradition for orderly queuing is thought to date back to the industrial revolution, and soon became connected to values such as decency, fair play and democracy. Nowadays it’s second nature to join the back of the queue so you can expect a few tuts and head shakes if you’re caught pushing in. Did you know that before we claimed it, the word queue actually meant a plaited pony-tail hairstyle!
You might want to check out a more detailed guide about why the British are so good at waiting in line.
- Anyone for tea? Brits do love a good cup of tea. It’s estimated that we consume 165 million cups of tea every day! Britain’s taste for tea dates back hundreds of years, and was so popular in the 1700s that the tax on tea was a staggering 119%. The most famous tea drinking tradition is afternoon tea, once an upper class luxury but now a popular choice for both tourists and the average Briton. So, just how do you make the perfect cup of tea? It’s simple really:
- Step one – Find the perfect teapot – it really can make all the difference!
- Step two - Choose your tea. There are currently around 1,500 different teas in Britain so you won’t be short of choice
- Step three – Add the milk. Debate still continues about whether the milk should be added before or after the tea. Luckily the choice is yours.
- Step four – Add in sugar or honey if you want to make your tea a bit sweeter
- Step five – Enjoy! Treat yourself to a biscuit and learn how to dunk (dip it in) like the British.
And if all else fails, you can ask your new British friends to make you a cuppa!
Don’t just take our word for it, why not go for afternoon tea? Just a 5 minute walk from our City Campus is Josephine's Tea Lounge. If you fancy something a bit more traditional, why not try Colwick Hall’s afternoon tea.
- British food at its finest: fish and chips. A traditional British meal so popular, you can find a fish and chip shop on nearly every street in the UK. So, how did this meal become part of the national diet? The first fish and chip shop is thought to have opened in Lancashire around 1863, and by World War 2 was so popular that fish and chips were one of the few foods not to be rationed to boost morale! It remains a key part of British life today – whether you’re in the mood for a Friday night takeaway or on a trip to the seaside. And in Nottingham, it’s even normal to add mushy peas (mashed up peas) to your meal – give it a try!
For some of the best fish and chips in town head to George's Great British Kitchen.
- How about that weather? Brits are generally quite reserved and tend to avoid conversation whenever possible. The exception? Talking about the weather. It’s estimated that 94% of us admit to having conversed about the weather in the past six hours alone. You may ask why? The simple reason is that our weather is so unpredictable that there’s always something to say. We have even developed new words and phrases just to try and describe the many variations of weather we see throughout the year. So if you hear people exclaiming sentences like “It’s a bit nippy today” or “Lovely day, isn’t it!”, there’s a 94% chance it will be about the weather!
If you don’t believe me then just check out how unpredictable Nottingham’s weather can be.
- One nation. Many accents. Films and TV shows have done a good job at convincing the world we only have three accents – Queen’s English, cockney and then a ‘general rest of the UK’ accent. In fact, the British Isles has many, many, many different accents and dialects. With more than 37 dialects you don’t have to travel far to discover a new one. Rumour has it that the further north you go the stronger (and less understandable) the accent becomes. Nottingham has a fairly simple accent but we do have our own regional sayings which can be tricky to understand. The most famous is ‘ay up me duck’. If you hear someone saying this don’t be alarmed! You may expect them to be talking to an actual duck but this phrase is actually just a friendly greeting to say “Hello”.
It might be worth checking out this helpful beginners guide to Nottingham’s dialect before you get here.